He was born José Saúl Wermus (sometimes spelled "José Huermus") in Buenos Aires, on 13 August 1942. Son of a printing worker active in the Graphist Union, Altamira began participating in the labor movement at an early age, and took part in a number of strikes. Altamira had a son. He founded an advocacy magazine, Política Obrera, in 1964, and, later a party by the same name. The party was banned following the March 1976 coup, however, though in 1982, amid the political liberalization that preceded the 1983 return to democracy, he founded the Workers' Party of Argentina. He was among five Workers' Party leaders arrested during the 1989 riots in Argentina on suspicion of incitement; the charges were later dropped.
Altamira was elected to the Buenos Aires City Legislature in 2000. He pursued a vigorous labor rights agenda during his tenure at the legislature, and proposed a six-hour workday for Buenos Aires Metro employees working underground, a law protecting workers' self-management of bankrupt businesses, a hike in the minimum wage to cover the poverty line in the city (higher than in most of the rest of Argentina), and a universal healthcare coverage law. He has unsuccessfully run for both a seat in the Argentine Chamber of Deputies, as well as for the Presidency, and is one of the nine members of the Co-ordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International.
- "Jorge Altamira". La Nación (in Spanish). 24 October 1999. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
- Day, Alan John (1996). Political parties of the world. Stockton. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-56159-144-2.
- "Entrevista a Jorge Altamira". Politic Argentina (in Spanish). 13 July 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
- Hernán Brienza (2006). Silvio Frondizi: un francotirador marxista (in Spanish). Capital Intelectual. pp. 51, 58. ISBN 978-987-1181-67-4. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
- Clarín: Detienen a Altamira (3 June 1989)
- Jorge Altamira: Perfil Candidato (Spanish)
- "La venganza de Serra". El País (in Spanish). 10 November 2004. Retrieved 20 December 2010.